Larry Fournillier may not yet be a household name, but on the social network of Google Plus, he is something akin to a social media rockstar. With over 980,000 followers he is the most followed Caribbean personality on the platform and has amassed a loyal stream of viewers for his cooking themed Hangouts on Air (visit his YouTube account for replays). His popularity has led to his being invited into an online ‘hangout’ with Usain Bolt during the 2012 Olympics and even to appearances in two Google ads! (spot him at 0:58 in the one below)
Late last year Larry reached out to me, inviting me to cook on two episodes of his popular series “Learning To Cook Caribbean” as well as offering me the opportunity which would turn into “Sweet Han': Caribbean Cooking with Sarina”. Since then, this Maraval-based son of the soil and myself have become good friends and have actively brainstormed ways that we can continue to promote Trinidad and the Caribbean to the world both collectively and individually. Unfortunately, like myself, Larry has found himself stymied in many of his efforts due to a lack of interest from local companies/institutions in his work. Still, he keeps keeping on, churning out culinary-centric digital content on a daily basis, believing strongly that doors will open eventually for him. And they are, but in the US.
Next month Larry will be flown, all-expenses paid, to Denver, Colorado to headline “The All-Inclusive Mile High Denver HIRL & V.I.P Conference” a fully corporate-sponsored 6-day multimedia culinary event. After which he will then be appearing at Google’s ‘Googleplex‘ in California, at their invitation, to cook a Caribbean spread. This, in addition to some exciting opportunities for 2014 (again US-based) should have Larry on cloud 9, and he is. However, the victory is tinged with bittersweet as he is still keenly aware of how these same plans and ideas have been rejected (often not too politely) by local entities.
“I’ve been treated like *crap* by local companies. (If I say more I will end up cussing :)) The foreign companies with whom I have dealt with, so far, have all treated me great. They have respected and supported me, which is a vast contrast to what the local companies have demonstrated. The US sponsors are willing to work with me and get behind my initiatives.
I think the local companies take an apathetic approach or attitude towards some of our local talent, they brush them off and focus only on the ones who have ‘made it’ – to me this is an abomination. Lately, there has been a big push in the country about fostering the entrepreneurial spirit, which is good; however, if the good and talented entrepreneurs aren’t picked up, promoted or sponsored by local companies, their ideas and/or enthusiasm can simply ‘die on the vine’ – that’s my opinion.”
TG: Who are some of your heroes/role models? Why have they touched/inspired you?
LF: My heroes are my mother and grandmother. My grandmother’s inspiration came from ages 10 through 14. I lived with her from ages 11 through 14, since my parents had emigrated to the US. I remember being in the kitchen on Sundays assisting her with a typical Trini Sunday Lunch, and my responsibilities included grating the coconut and preparing the vegetable for the Calalloo, amongst other tasks. Granny taught me the basics, she was a stickler for details and she had a burning passion for cooking. I definitely got my passion for food and cooking from her.My Mom kept my passion alive by teaching me various recipes, techniques and tricks that she picked up from her over 15 cookbooks. One of my favorites, and I still own it, is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
TG: Is the work you are doing now what you dreamed of as a kid?
LF: No, my dream at 8 was to become a medical doctor like my late maternal grandfather; however, my deep-seeded passion was always cooking even during my 25 year IT career, I always enjoyed cooking for my friends and co-workers. Now, that I’m semi-retired I‘m doing what I still love, to cook, so much so that I have a small, private catering business.
TG: What is your favourite ingredient to cook with and why?
LF: I have a lot of favorites, for example: garlic, onion, ginger, and celery. They are not only good for the body… they give food tremendous flavor. When cooking, I often use a Mirepoix. This is a simple combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions which add great flavor and aroma to stocks, sauces, soups and other foods.